Gluten Sensitivity: Should You Go Gluten-Free?
First Things First: What is Gluten?
The proteins found in wheat are collectively called “gluten”. Gluten is found in many foods to act as a binder, even in some unexpected foods. Foods such as soups, soy sauce, condiments, and prepared foods can contain gluten.
Why are there foods that are naturally gluten-free and still have to be labeled “gluten-free”? Those foods may not have been processed in a gluten-free manufacturing environment. This can be dangerous for those with celiac disease, an autoimmune system that causes severe damage to the small intestine and impacts the overall health of the individual.
What if you don’t have celiac disease, but you still have digestive symptoms when you eat products containing gluten?
A condition called Non-Celiac Gluten/Wheat Sensitivity (NCGWS) is suspected to create some similar symptoms (bloating, stomach pain, constipation, acid reflux, nausea, brain fog, fatigue, mouth ulcers,) to celiac disease. Researchers have found that some patients with these types of symptoms may also have an allergy to certain sugars and components in FODMAP (fermentable carbohydrates that are difficult to digest) foods.
So NCGWS won’t damage the gut like celiac disease, right? Until recently, that was the thought. Researchers are now finding that some cellular damage is still possible through a systemic immune reaction, even in those not diagnosed with celiac disease.
How Long Does It Take for Gluten to Leave Your System?
If an individual sticks to a strict gluten-free diet, their symptoms may begin to dissipate in just a few days, improving each day. It won’t take long before they begin to feel “normal” again. For some, eating very small amounts of gluten, on occasion, may be tolerable, but finding out the cause and effect of your specific issue is important.
Eating gluten-free is easier now than in past years. There are many clearly labeled gluten-free foods on the market today that may have traditionally contained gluten, but they are made with gluten-free products and grains. But be careful! If you are sensitive to wheat, specifically, gluten-free does not necessarily mean “wheat-free”.
You also won’t find gluten in most unprocessed foods, such as:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Meat, poultry, fish
- Dairy products
- Beans, legumes, and nuts
- Gluten-free oats
- Nut flours
- And more
For years, many people have believed that a gluten-free diet is healthy and effective for weight loss. About 75% of people eating gluten-free have chosen to do so for one of these reasons. A tiny percentage of people who eat gluten-free have been diagnosed with celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder that can cause irreversible damage to the small intestine, weak bones, neurological symptoms and skin disorders, along with considerable discomfort.
It’s Time to See a Doctor
If you are having consistent symptoms that don’t seem to completely go away, visit a gastroenterologist – they specialize in digestive health problems. Don’t just tough it out only to find your symptoms are causing damage to your body. Get the help that will have you feeling great again in no time.